Beyond negotiating with bandits

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Banditry most recently has become an albatross in Nigeria. The menace has become a thorn particularly in the North West. While the North-East is known to be the zone ravaged by the Boko-haram/ISWAP terror, banditry has taken a grip on the North-West as the region’s brand of insecurity. The extending tentacles of the menace have expanded to such heights that reports of daily operations by bandits across the Country have overtaken news reports.

The misadventure of banditry has extended its tentacles so broad, recently, so much so that they have become entirely troublesome to the Country at large. It is known that the range of those who have become victims of bandits have cut across spectrum of cadres within the zones where the menace has become pronounced. The turn of bandits to kidnap-for-ransom has seen the range of targets becoming elaborate. Recently, the turn of bandits to kidnapping pupils from schools have become pronounced, with minors suffering inhumane conditions of kidnap with the demands of ransom by their captors to secure their release. The phenomenon has not spared students of higher institutions, who in some occasion have also had a taste of the menace.

However, while students have had fair of the menace recently, there are other set of individuals who for long have been suffering the brunt of the menace in all dimensions. The attacks on communities by armed bandits have over time been encumbered with colossal losses. The brunt suffered by farmers and their settlements are lamentable losses with depths of emotional, social, political and economic troubles. The impacts of ravages on farm settlements have evidently posed troubles with increasing scarcity of food in the Country – an ugly development bending towards acute food crisis.

On Tuesday, report had surfaced of another attack in Kaduna State which  left no less than 25 persons dead, with three persons injured, 68 farms destroyed and 63 huts burnt. Confirming the unfortunate event which took place in four communities of Kauru Local Government Area of the State, the Kaduna State Government, through a statement issued on Wednesday by its Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, had said that following Tuesday’s update on the attack in Ungwan Magaji, Kishicho, Kigam and Kikoba villages of Kauru Local Government, more details were received by the State government on casualties and property damaged during the attack. “The figures bring the total number of those who died in the attack to 25, with three persons injured, 68 farms destroyed and 63 huts burnt. condemns attack on Kaduna LG,” the statement had read partly.

As the menace continues to assume more clustering dimensions, concern over the perceived confusion of the Government on the strategic patterns to firmly annihilate the web of the misadventure have become mind-boggling. It is known that resort to paying ransom to bandits to secure the release of abducted victims, has further emboldened the misadventure with extending tentacles. The inability of security operatives to successfully ensure the release of bandits’ victims, has left behind perceived shortcomings, apparently emboldening the perpetrators to entrench their escapades.

The resort of the Government to negotiate with bandits has further deepened the root of the menace, since it appears the mischievous elements are increasingly building up an orientation of worth, owing to deficiencies in security formations to track them down. Hence, the resort of the Government to negotiating with bandits, as well as attempts made in some quarters to grant amnesty to them, have rather than curbing the web of the menace, enhanced the extension of its tentacles.

The Federal Government on Thursday mentioned that it stopped negotiations with bandits because it was observed the kidnappers used the money from ransom to equip and rearm themselves. The Minister of State for Education, Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba who made the disclosure while fielding questions from journalists at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the First Lady’s Conference Room, Presidential Villa, Abuja, was quoted: “Truly speaking, it is disheartening anytime any of our students are taken at any point, I can assure you that the federal government is doing all that it can. We have held several meetings with our security personnel and that whole region. Insecurity at the school level, you may understand stems from insecurity around the area. Before we had Chibok, there was Boko Haram in the area. It is the success of the military in more or less, incapacitating Boko Haram in the Northeast that led to some level of insurgents in the Northwest.

“And as bandits appeared that they’ve started striking randomly at some of our schools from Jengave, Kangara. You know, everywhere. And the places where they’ve had to go, we’ve pursued them. But the containment policy of the military is actually in response to what we also did as the humanitarian element that surrounds it, because the way the military will engage bandits once they have our citizens will not be the same way they will engage them ordinarily. And therefore, they may not just go into the forest shooting at everything or everybody they see. And that has enabled the bandits to use some of our citizens as human shields. We are constrained to stop negotiations with bandits because we’ve seen that every time they get any payment, it leads to further escalation because they reequip and they rearm and then they go back.”

It is apparent that negotiations and such approach as granting amnesty to bandits, have only further entrenched the terror wings of bandits. It is imperative for the Government to assume stronger position with robust enforcement strategies, backed with seasoned intelligence, to attenuate and firmly cut off the claws of bandits’ network in the Country.

The turbulence which the menace has recently impacted in the Country have resulted into deep seated socio-economic and political troubles. It is therefore important that, rather than resorting to negotiations which most times have put the Government to ridicule before the bandits, the governement should assume courageous positioning to clampdown on the menace by intelligence driven force of operations – which is important to salvage the Country from the prevailing socio-economic and political heat informed by the impacts of the escapades of bandits.